An effective Information Assurance Vulnerability Management program requires taking an integrated approach to monitoring and remediating vulnerabilities, which includes using continuous vulnerability assessments as well as tracking strategies against specific classes of vulnerabilities.
Establishing ongoing vulnerability management processes helps your business obtain a more complete picture of its security status. Doing this ensures that less-frequently scanned assets are properly assessed and patched while high impact vulnerabilities don’t go overlooked.
1. Software Updates
Software updates are one of the most critical, yet often neglected, elements of Information Assurance Vulnerability Management. Cybercriminals constantly devise new methods of hacking into devices; to best defend against them it’s essential that your system stays up-to-date with patched vulnerabilities.
Software vendors regularly release updates to fix bugs and glitches, improve performance, and introduce new features into programs. While these updates are all essential, security-related ones stand out as particularly essential. Many attacks that target digital devices rely on exploiting flaws in popular programs such as operating systems and browsers; such attacks allow threat actors to steal data or take over an infected device and gain entry to sensitive information stored therein.
As with anything, failing to apply software updates puts your data and security at risk – inconvenient and potentially deadly risks alike. For instance, Equifax breach exposed 143 million Americans’ Social Security numbers, birth dates and home addresses to attackers who took advantage of a known vulnerability in its web application; had this vulnerability been repaired instead, this breach may have been avoided; unfortunately the company didn’t update their systems in time and thus exposed millions more vulnerable.
Lacking patches installed can result in serious performance issues, from freezing applications or systems all the way through to making you vulnerable to attacks on devices and software no longer supported by vendors.
In these instances, it is wise to utilize a patch management solution which offers automatic updates or temporary workarounds to protect your system until a patch becomes available. Furthermore, these tools should track updates so as to prevent overlapped patches from exploiting your system and potentially leading to potential security threats.
2. Automated Scans
Effective vulnerability management cannot be accomplished as a single project or through periodic scans alone. With IT ecosystems constantly changing and evolving, new vulnerabilities appear often due to changes in operating system versions or software releases months ago; or old platforms reaching end-of-support status with no further updates available.
Utilizing an efficient scanning tool designed to be scheduled on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to detect flaws is one way to stay abreast of changes to your IT infrastructure. Some tools even enable on-demand scans without impacting network performance.
Automated scans can either use authenticated or non-authenticated methods of operation. Authenticated methods involve signing in using credentials in order to gain a user-centric view of IT environments for more accurate results, while non-authenticated ones focus on scanning external services accessible from the internet in search of any vulnerable assets.
Many scanners provide data matrices that rank vulnerabilities according to severity level, exploitability and asset importance – providing invaluable data that allows your organisation to prioritise vulnerability scanning while also increasing accountability between technical teams and business leaders.
Combining manual testing methods like penetration and red team exercises with automated scanning tools for optimal results will give a comprehensive picture of how secure your systems are against attacks. Taking this approach will give you confidence that nothing vital has been missed by your automated tools and will make identifying and implementing solutions quicker and simpler – this approach may especially prove effective when working within multi-vendor environments where some products no longer receive security updates.
3. Network Scans
Network scanning is a method of inspecting devices and applications on a network to detect vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers, and forms part of Information Assurance Vulnerability Management to prevent hackers from breaking into systems, stealing sensitive data, or installing other forms of malware on systems.
Vulnerability scans are high-level automated tests designed to identify known vulnerabilities and notify security teams so they can be resolved. Vulnerability scans may be conducted both internally (intranet scans) and externally to expose various kinds of weaknesses that attackers could exploit; while external scans expose systems and services open to attack from the internet while internal vulnerability scans detect flaws that allow attackers to traverse local networks lateraly.
An effective vulnerability scanner must be scalable enough to scan large, complex networks efficiently. Users should be able to customize scanning policies according to their specific requirements and compliance standards, with advanced features that enhance results while making remediating discovered flaws more effective – this includes features such as:
A great vulnerability scanner also rates each found vulnerability according to several criteria, such as its ease of exploitation, its attack surface size and impact, and how easily an attack could take place on affected systems. These ratings help prioritize and focus your remediation efforts on the most dangerous vulnerabilities first. Furthermore, some vulnerability scanners offer both non-intrusive and intrusive scanning techniques – including reverse mapping or IP addresses which evade firewalls – to allow more in-depth examination, so you can test whether an exploit attempt may affect system operations and business processes without endangering system operations or processes that rely upon them.
4. Data Scans
Vulnerabilities in networks, software applications, and operating systems pose serious threats to the information assets in your network. They can result from server or software misconfigurations, unpatched systems, outdated versions without security updates and outdated versions that do not receive security patches. Vulnerability scans can identify these flaws; once identified prioritize your list based on threat level as this will ensure the most critical vulnerabilities are dealt with first and ensure compliance with relevant laws or industry-specific compliance standards.
Implementing routine vulnerability scans helps protect against gaps in cybersecurity that attackers could exploit, especially for rapidly shifting IT infrastructure and digital assets, such as cloud services that can be reconfigured quickly.
Authenticated data scans require login credentials in order to gather more detailed and accurate vulnerability information on assets than unauthenticated ones. For instance, authenticated scans can provide a listing of files containing suspicious data with their hashed values; and show which user groups have access (and the level of access they possess).
External scans conducted outside your internal network can identify vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit from the internet, including weaknesses in web servers, apps, networks, services or devices that are publically accessible to all. Utilizing external scans helps secure internet-facing resources while protecting them against attacks that exploit these vulnerabilities and reduces service disruption caused by exploited vulnerabilities.
As well as using scans and vulnerability assessment tools, other security practices should also be put in place that reduce the risk of exploited vulnerabilities. This includes updating all devices and software regularly. A plan should also be created for systems without automated updates or that have reached their end-of-support dates.
5. Penetration Testing
Penetration testing provides an essential service to organizations of any size to help safeguard their technology from potential weaknesses, but even experienced IT teams cannot identify every point of weakness in an attack on your systems’ defenses that may lead to data breach. Also referred to as ethical hacking or pen testing, penetration testing simulates attacks to uncover any weaknesses in their defenses that may result in data theft or data breaches.
Penetration testing helps identify vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit, giving you time to close them off and reduce security gaps before any real damage is caused by them. It also gives you an opportunity to put incident response processes through their paces in a controlled environment so you can ensure they work as intended while exploring ways to make improvements before facing an actual cyberattack.
When conducting a penetration test, professional pentesters will need to be involved. These professionals understand the strategies employed by malicious hackers when attacking businesses, so it is recommended they employ gray-box testing techniques; meaning the testers have limited knowledge of your system’s inner workings in order to more accurately replicate an attack from threat actors who gained entry through compromised credentials or social engineering techniques such as phishing.
Once penetration testing is completed, its results should be organized into high-risk issues, medium-risk issues and low-risk issues based on risk. Prioritizing vulnerabilities based on risk can help prioritize and address the most urgent threats first.
An effective vulnerability management program is vital to information and cybersecurity protection. By incorporating its key components, your company will be better prepared to deal with any cyberattack that comes its way. To learn more about a vulnerability assessment program that could benefit your company, reach out today – we offer tools and services designed to secure data, customers and employees from security breaches.